Pablo Páez ‘Gavi’ has been widely considered one of La Masia’s pearls. Nevertheless, not many expected him to show so much progress by the age of 16, and his inaugural few first-team outings have again validated his talent and quality. But what exactly makes Gavi so special and how should Barcelona assist his development?
A player with immense potential
Gavi is a gem, and one of the rare ones. Talent-wise, I personally view him as the best interior the club has produced since Thiago Alcântara, perhaps even Andrés Iniesta. The calibre of his spatial awareness, positional understanding, inventiveness, passing accuracy and timing is a sign of a player that shall conquer the football world in the future. What’s just as notable is his maturity and ability to adapt to any circumstances. His game is unblemished thanks to his remarkable clarity of thought that is usually developed with experience, but is already present in Gavi’s toolbox. As a result, the 16-year-old has not demanded any time to switch from the Cadete A to the Juvenil, then Barça B and now the senior team.
A supreme opportunist and difference-maker
Give him one chance, and he’ll make an impact. That’s exactly what he’s been doing so far. Gavi has barely put a foot wrong in preseason, providing some stability and balance in midfield, but also constantly charging forward in order to find space between the lines. His decision-making is superb; each pass of his has its weight and distance perfectly calculated. He measures his actions exceptionally, a rarity for a youngster. Regardless of the context, Gavi always delivers. The ability to soak up the pressure and maintain composure is an invaluable trait. In spite of his age and physical deficiencies, he has never looked insecure or unsure. Mature well beyond his years.
Between cautiousness and carelessness
Following such a promising start, should Pablo Páez ‘Gavi’ play with the first team on a regular basis? Understandably, many would hesitate due to his tender age. However, I have nothing against him occasionally featuring. ‘Age is just a number’ is an overused idiom, but relevant in Gavi’s case. The main criteria should be not age, but maturity. Whether that’s with regard to technical qualities or mental robustness, the 16-year-old excels. If anything, he will only improve as he gains experience, which can only be acquired through consistent game time.
At the opposite end, there’s another delicate, but oh-so important detail. Just like being excessively reluctant, forcing Gavi’s adaptation would be an equally critical error. Generally, the key to success in youth development lies in the balance between cageyness and negligence. Each youngster evolves at his own pace, and the team is obliged to match that. It’s an intricate practice, but one that clubs such as Ajax have mastered over the years. In terms of talent production, Barça and de Godenzonen are evenly matched, and it’s therefore the Catalans that need to up their game in that regard in order to successfully foster the game of players like Gavi.
In Pablo Páez ‘Gavi’, Barça have a generational talent in their disposal. For a teenager, he shows sensational maturity, making him a genuine option for the first team. But as with all of the club’s youngsters, we should treat Gavi’s progression with care and by no means be forceful. Barcelona B should hence remain his main focus as the subsidiary can offer him ample game time, but once the opportunity arises, you can bet Gavi will be ready to step up.